Nutritional therapy is a system of healing based on the belief that food, as nature intended, provides the medicine we need to obtain and maintain a state of health: our food is our medicine and our medicine is our food. Although some health problems require specific medication, many conditions can be relieved effectively with nutritional therapy. These include disorders ranging from chronic fatigue, energy loss, insomnia and depression, to backache, skin complaints, asthma, and headaches.
Nutritional therapy will also benefit you if you have no specific illness, but want to maintain a state of optimum health. It is safe for babies and children as well as adults, and the change of eating patterns that is typically prescribed usually has far fewer side effects than synthetic medicines.
Nutritional therapy is a holistic discipline; nutrition as the key to good health is the all-embracing fundamental principle used since the time of the famous Greek doctor and founder of western medicine, Hippocrates, to help people of all ages to stay at their personal peak of energy and vitality. Today, new insights of food scientists play a significant role in the practice of nutritional therapy as preventative medicine.
During the last fifty years, many wonderful breakthroughs have improved our understanding of the role of food in our lives. But at the same time, many of us are realizing that food is the cornerstone which, in our modern lifestyle, has been rejected by the builder.
The speed at which we live and work -- the pressure of the deadline -- pushes us into a fast-eating culture, where quality of food becomes secondary. Eating on the job, on the run, under pressure, denies us the experience, the purpose, and the role of food. Eventually it denies us our very lifestyle. Modern supermarkets are stocked with many instant meals, but more often than not, these meals are far lower in nutritional value than those prepared at home with fresh organically grown ingredients.
For all the benefits agribusiness has brought the people of the Western world, the disadvantages of the modern food industry include extensive use of chemicals in food production. There is also a loss of the vitality intrinsic in newly harvested food because many products are transported vast distances before they reach their destination. Of course, this is the case with many of the so-called "fresh" foods on our supermarket shelves, as well as with those dishes that have been pre-cooked and packaged before reaching the supermarkets.
Lifestyle and nutrition are intimately linked, and our lifestyle defines itself partly from the tradition of the country we live in, and partly from our attitudes. How do you really want to live? Given the choice, would you prefer to eat well every day, to exercise, to breathe clean air as often as possible, to drink a reasonable amount of water in order to keep your bloodstream clean and able to wash out toxins? This choice is available to all of us, but to exercise it we need to understand the impact on our well-being of different foods and learn from direct experience what kind of eating pattern best suits our lifestyle.
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What is Health?
In a dynamic and good state of health, our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual components all live in harmony with each other. For a wider comprehension of health, it is interesting to look at the issue of "healthiness" not only from the Western but also from the Eastern viewpoint. The ancient systems of Chinese and Indian medicine go back more than 5,000 years. These cultures used -- and continue to use -- whole plants in their treatment, whereas orthodox medicine uses extracts from plants which are often then replicated by synthetic products.
The two systems of medicine diverge at the point of prevention. Eastern practices include the preventative care of the whole person as a primary aim -- to maintain good health. The formula for good health is:
* life force
Our daily diet will make good-quality blood, which in turn promotes the flow of healthy energy. We need to ask ourselves daily questions. What is my physical health like today? Do I have a sense of well-being? Do I have plenty of energy? Do I sleep and eat well? How we feel each day is built upon our past actions, our past dietary practices, whether we have had physical exercise, whether we have been mentally active, and on our general attitude towards life.
Tiredness Versus Fatigue
Fatigue is very prevalent in the present day. The healthy person who uses his or her entire body in the ways described above during each day will feel tired -- the pleasant feeling of having worked hard. This individual's body will be able to relax completely and recuperate at the end of the day. This is not fatigue -- it is the body's natural need for rest.
It is during rest and recuperation that the body cleanses itself of all the toxins that build up during activity. If the body is not given a chance to self-cleanse, a state of fatigue will become persistent. When it becomes chronic, fatigue may indicate underlying problems, such as infection, immune system weaknesses, glandular problems, or lymphatic congestion, as the body's systems become clogged by waste.
What is Illness?
Illness develops in four stages:
* tiredness, changing to fatigue -- no amount of rest seems adequate
The Eastern approach to health divides the causes of illness into two: those that come from within and those that come from without. Those from within are mostly products of our lifestyle, traditions, and beliefs. The ways we can be affected from within are as follows:
* excess of emotions, even positive ones such as joy, can affect the heart
* excess of anger can affect the liver
* excess of sadness damages the appetite, the stomach, spleen, or pancreas
* excessive grief can affect the lungs
* shock, fear, surprise, or fright can affect the kidneys
Part of the process of nutritional therapy is to help us restore the proper balance, to bring about the harmony we lack.
The "Four Doctors"
The basic needs of our physical bodies to eliminate toxic waste, as described above, are being denied to us by the life we lead in modern Western society. What we require to attend to these basic needs I call the "four doctors":
1. sunlight and fresh air
2. proper exercise and sufficient rest
3. good food
4. pure water
While our ancestors lived mainly outdoor lives, we tend to live largely indoors, denying ourselves the most pivotal requirement: light. Our whole body depends on the reception of light in order to carry out vital functions -- the regulation of the appetite, our patterns of sleeping and waking, aspects of our behavior, and the health of our nervous system. Fresh air is necessary for us to exchange the toxins and pollutants in the body with at least an equal amount of air. Otherwise, we develop acute respiratory problems from overload; our cities do not have sufficient trees to breathe back oxygen into our environment. Trees act as "lungs" by filling the air with life-giving oxygen.
Water is the greatest treat for the body. It is the river that carries all the nutrients around the body to the brain, and to every single cell in the body. The brain is the first place to suffer dehydration -- it then becomes difficult to think or make appropriate decisions. In recent studies, it was found that water more than food helped give long-distance walkers the energy to finish. Likewise, those driving long distances need a snack, as well as a break of fifteen minutes or so, in order to maintain their concentration on the road. In both of these examples, the simple remedies prevented emotional and psychological imbalance, which drains the body of its energy supply and causes fatigue.
The Role of Food in our Lives
By experimenting with the effects of different foods, many people find they also revise old beliefs about the role of food in their lives. Nutritional therapy is not just about eating different types of food -- it is also about increasing your awareness of how you eat and of where the food you eat comes from, of how you store and prepare it, and of how you perceive yourself and your place in the web of life. The benefits of nutritional therapy are sometimes immediate, but its study is timeless and its effects can bring about long-lasting changes in your attitude to life.
Recently, Dr. Henry Dreher -- author of The Immune Power Personality -- reminded us of certain characteristics we can all develop which increase our ability to be healthy. These characteristics include
* having the ability to recognize when the body is signaling to us that it is in pain or feeling tired
* identifying emotions such as anger or sadness
* connecting these states to food we have recently eaten and so learning to identify the effects different foods have on us
* developing a sense of control over our health and over the quality of our lives, because the way we live -- as well as the way we eat -- is part of the way we nourish ourselves
Nutritional therapy helps us consider our human immunity in the context of a rapidly changing environment by deepening our understanding of the constant ebb and flow between ourselves and our outer world. Our immunity is part of the entire picture -- a relationship between our own evolving and our world. "Whole body" immunity concerns all aspects of life: ensuring that the physical body has the correct nutrition and appropriate healing therapies, enjoying good emotional health by nurturing the feelings, learning to make choices from a position of unbiased awareness and not from the "victim" or "martyr" approach.
Nutritional therapy requires us to acknowledge that we are body, soul, mind, and emotion. Accordingly, it incorporates all these aspects of our lives, with the objective of maintaining a healthy mind and soul as well as a healthy body, developing an open-minded outlook and a positive attitude to ourselves, and learning to see any causes of stress in our lives as challenges rather than threats.
This is a practical introductory guide on how to achieve and maintain optimum health by following a balanced and nutritious diet. It contains specific advice on how to deal with certain health problems like insomnia, stress, hyperactivity, depression, headaches and energy loss. The role of fresh foods, minerals and vitamins, complex carbohydrates, fats and sugars is discussed in detail. The chapters include: What is Nutritional Healing?; History of Nutritional Healing; Essential Nutrients, and; Nutritional Therapy as Preventive Medicine. Appendix 1 list the benefits of herbs, the food sources of minerals, botanical vitamin sources and foods that enhance healing, while Appendix 2 provides a series of typical recommended daily menus. This helpful book concludes with a recommended reading list and an index.
This article was excerpted with permission from "Discover Nutritional Therapy" published by Ulysses Press. Ulysses Press/Seastone Books are available at bookstores throughout the US, Canada, and the UK, or can be ordered directly from Ulysses Press by calling 800-377-2542, faxing 510-601-8307, or writing to Ulysses Press, PO Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703. Their website is http://ulyssespress.com/
About The Author
Patricia Quinn, a nutritional counselor and kinesiologist who specializes in working with children.